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"I am worried we will see a second wave of infections if guidance doesn't change"

Following concerns about visitor trips to Dorset - which are said to be putting a "strain" on emergency services - the Government is being asked to introduce a "stay local” clarification to the guidance.

Council leader Spencer Flower has sent a letter to Boris Johnson and the county's MPs.

It says: "Over the weekend we have seen some extremely disappointing behaviour from visitors to Dorset’s beaches. I am acutely aware of how worried and upset many Dorset residents feel about the current situation, particularly when so many of them complied fully with lockdown guidance and when the Dorset Council area had one of the lowest COVID19 infection rates in the country.

"The incidents at Durdle Door on Saturday placed a huge strain on our emergency services. There have also been issues in other areas over the weekend with excessive numbers of visitors and people therefore not able to observe social distancing. We’ve seen littering, people urinating and defecating in public, people camping overnight (which is not permitted under current government COVID19 guidelines) and people having dangerous campfires and BBQs – despite extensive warnings against this from all local agencies. Council employees have been abused by the members of the public as they tried to manage the traffic.

"My overriding priority throughout the Covid-19 outbreak has been the safety and wellbeing of Dorset residents and all decision making has been based on this. We at Dorset Council have done everything we can within the limited powers we have to prepare for and respond to the situation. For several weeks now we’ve been sending out a strong message that potential visitors should ‘think twice’ about coming to Dorset. This ‘Think Twice’ message has been used widely across the country. We’ve managed the opening of car parks and public toilets very carefully in order to cope with demand and manage safety issues, without inadvertently giving out a signal that Dorset is ‘open for business’.

"However, since the government announced on Sunday 10 May that lockdown was to be gradually eased and that people can “travel to outdoor open space irrespective of distance”, both we and Dorset Police have had very limited powers of enforcement. For example, since the recent guidance came into effect, the Police are no longer been able to challenge road users as to whether their journeys are essential.

"All public services are very stretched due to weeks of responding to the Covid-19 outbreak and other major incidents such as the wildfire at Wareham Forest.

"I have written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and to all Dorset MPs on this issue. My plea to the government is to review the unrestricted travel guidelines currently in place and require  people instead to “stay local”. The current guidelines have a disproportionately negative effect on areas like ours which are popular with visitors but do not have the infrastructure to cope right now.

"I am worried that we will see a second wave of infection here in Dorset as a result of the high number of visitors to the area over recent days. I’m asking the government to act now to save the lives of Dorset residents. Please help us to help them by issuing revised guidance telling people to stay local for the time being"


 

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